Health Care

Using and acquiring health care while a postdoctoral fellow at Carleton

Becoming a new post-doc requires the post-doc fellow to do a few things roughly within 30 days of getting to Ottawa for your post-doc:

1) apply for UHIP at the International Student Services Office ISSO within 30 days of arriving in Canada for international post-docs;

2) apply for OHIP;

3) decide whether to opt into the Canada Life Health and Dental Benefit supplemental health plan (you have 31 days to opt in!);

HR can provide help in navigating these issues, including for residents of Quebec. International post-docs with work permits will probably be initially on international insurance (UHIP) until their application to Ontario insurance (OHIP) is approved a few months later.

For more information visit

Health insurance for post-docs can be split into two. First there is (i) basic insurance, like the one supplied by the province (OHIP) or the insurance provided by the international office at Carleton (UHIP), then there is (ii) supplemental insurance which covers the costs of drugs, eye examinations, and dental work (Great-West Life Health and Dental Benefit).

Part of the cost for supplemental insurance comes out of your paycheck, and the other part comes from your advisor. Should a post-doc be pressured by their advisor or those in the lab not to take supplemental insurance, please contact the union ( Advisors are required (when applying to create a post-doc position) to reserve enough money to pay for the supplemental insurance. The main reasons why a post-doc would not opt-in is if the post-doc obtained similar or better benefits through another member of their family. Though the union would like to be alerted in any case, the Dean of Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs also can also hear and act on complaints regarding these issues.

The general health situation

General health care can be split into two services in Ottawa; (i) urgent care for things like cold/flu/pneumonia/strep throat/STI type symptoms and treatment, and (ii) ‘family doctors’ for more general care, upkeep, and referrals. Post-docs can use the clinic on campus for urgent care, though it is preferred that these services are for students, and post-docs, like other employees, cannot use the clinic for ‘family doctor’ services.

To see a doctor, these two methods of basic insurance are fairly equal and will provide access to the services below. However, the experience in the following article is obtained from using OHIP rather than the international insurance.

“The medical profession in Ottawa seems to run through the telephone, and though email and online options are available, getting the best service will typically require you to call and discuss your situation with someone on the other end. In my experience, the online files run into automated systems that often keep you waiting.

For urgent care, say if one wanted to check up on a cold that was lingering for a while or worried about an STI, then they might want to use an Appletree clinic. I used the Appletree on Preston in Little Italy. I made sure I got there close to when it opened and didn’t have to wait too long, though different Appletrees, probably downtown, might get busier with longer wait times (hour plus). These doctors can provide basic things like prescriptions for short term medications like antibiotics, or testing referrals, but they only variously provide notes for employers, and do not provide long term care. If you are not here for very long and have these types of casual medical issues, it might be that you go to the Carleton Clinic or an Appletree a few times and move on.

Any more extensive care in Ottawa really needs a ‘family doctor;’ it is called that even if you are single. It is basically a doctor who you go see, on a regular basis and can have some responsibility over your care. They do provide things like doctor’s notes and referrals. Family doctors are hard to find in Ottawa, getting a family doctor either means contacting doctor’s offices directly if you have international insurance or Health Care Connect if you have an OHIP card. If you are looking for a family doctor, I urge to call Health Care Connect directly. I signed up for Health Care Connect online, and they did not get back to me because I lived close to downtown, and there were no family doctors taking patients within a 5km radius of my apartment during that time. I do not have a car, so I wanted to be able to get to a doctor. After not getting a response for a couple of months, I called Health Care Connect to get a family doctor, and the person who I talked to did provide one. The person was knowledgeable of the bus network in Ottawa and my doctor is about a 30 min ride on a fairly frequent bus. Again, this is the advantage of calling someone up and discussing things with them. There are doctors out there accepting patients, though it will probably require a bus or car ride. I do not know anybody in Ottawa that doesn’t have a doctor that is either some distance away or has some unique cobbled-together situation.”

D. Fowler (written March 2019)

Mental health

If you are in a crisis, please call: Carleton’s EFAP Program 888-234-0414

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 833-456-4566
LifeLine Canada Foundation (a Canadian Mental Health and Suicide Prevention service)

Academia attracts and aggravates mental health problems and seeking help and/or taking medication is not a failure, nor does it indicate inadequacy to perform with professional excellence. If you think you might benefit from talking to someone or counseling for whatever reason, please be brave, and seek help. It starts with a direct conversation with FSEAP over the phone 613-725-5676.

Post-docs have access to Carleton University’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP). These services are off-campus, while the on campus mental health services primarily serve students. The EFAP helps Carleton Employees (i.e. post-docs) to help resolve personal problems that affect their work performance. To make an appointment, call 613-725-5676. To meet in person even for an unscheduled drop-in, the main office is 312 Parkdale Ave, which is at Tunney’s Pasture, a major OCTranspo bus station and future metro stop. Even if you have trouble getting there, please call and discuss your situation.

If you are going to counseling, it is a good idea to subsequently take the effort to get a family doctor. This should not be an impediment in pursuing counseling or seeking other kinds of help. Keep in mind, a common symptom of worthy mental health problems is a tendency to discount your own well-being and the importance of these types of problems.

Ottawa online resources:

  • E-Mental Health Website
  • The Mental Health Crisis Line can be reached 24/7 by calling 613-722-6914 or toll-free 1-866-996-0991.


A last word

If you have any problems with general health and/or mental health treatment or access, please contact the Union ( Your access to health care is important to us, and we can discuss it with the employer during our regular meetings or even make changes to the collective agreement during the bargaining session.